Screaming for Life - circa 1680's Homestead, Bucks County Stone House

  • Pennsylvania
  • This project page was created by community member Alpha Genesis

    Dating back to the 1680's these ruins are one of the earliest homesteads in the region. Built with care and extraordinary precision, the original craftsman built a structure so solid the four corners are still plumb and the main portions of the structural walls and gable ends are still straight without any significant structural heaving.

    The homestead was occupied up to the mid 1970's when the house suffered from a devastating fire burning the roof, floor joists and window headers. Since then, the site has been a local teen hang out and place of chaos (aka fun).

    I intend to repair the stone work on the building and surround retaining walls. Once that is completed, I will be able to restore the roof and structural parts to its original form. The completed site will be an excellent insight into frontier living in the 1680's. We will use traditional building techniques and native materials for all construction. This will not be a reclaimed finish product, yet a new house as it was in the 1680's. Perhaps, we will allow the space to breath for another 350 years. And just maybe, someone in the year 2,350 will wonder about us and our primitive humble beginnings!

    I'm sure life was difficult for these folks, yet they certainly knew how to pick a good spot. The homestead is cut into the mountain side, creating a three story home with several entry points at various level. The home overlooks the creek and valley below. From this vantage point, the settlers would have been able to see and manage their flocks, been out of the flood plane, yet still walk comfortably into the basin.

    The cover photo is a photo of a newspaper clipping of a photo of a painting by George Beidler that was on display at the Lambertville House in the early 1970's. We believe the painting was completed from 1905 - 1915 based on other works from George Beidler. At the very least, this image showcases closely what the ruins was like.

    Photo Courtesy of Alpha Genesis

    Standing Strong and ready for a revival. The genesis for this antique home will come. With a homestead you might imagine there was a barn. Where is the barn!? Time has conquered the rest of the homestead but I believe that the barn was actually slightly uphill of the house just to the left of this photo outside the image. There are remains of a once substantial stone wall measuring 40' x 24' on top of a equally sized cut into the mountain side. There would not have been any reason to move so much earth and quarry the stone unless it was for a purposeful building. The footprint is consistent with old English banks barn in the area. Plus there are significant old grow maple trees surrounding the outside of the stone wall area. However, there is no sign of mortar nor does the barn appear on an area map dated in the early 1800's. This is interesting. I still believe that the site was for a bank barn that entered from the uphill right gable end. Like many buildings before and after, the barn probably had a fire. Rather than rebuilding the barn, the homeowners at the time would have simply used the stone foundation as an open paddock for livestock. Situations like this can be found across Bucks County. Without time travel it can be difficult to assert the age of old buildings. This home was built at a time the predated the local lumber mills as all the wood still around onsite was not sawn rather was hewned with hand tools. There is no sign of cut or forged nail used in any of the remain floor joists, door openings or window headers. All joints are fitting and pegged together. The lack of metal onsite may be due to the lack of raw material. By the time the mid 1700's rolled around getting supplies would have been much easier and house construction turned into more unified forms with forged nails, ripped planks, and sawn timbers. Plus if you could pick any spot in the valley to build a home, you would pick this spot. It is perfect for what these homesteaders needed to survive (water, distance views for flock management, contained within the valley with tight entry and exit points, south west expose for passive sunlight, protection from high winds, gentle slopes down to the creek while the rest of the mountain side is very steep, ample building materials, fertile grazing grounds for smaller easy to manage livestock). These folks had the opportunity to pick exactly where they wanted to live with purpose.

    Photo Courtesy of Alpha Genesis

    Quarried into the mountain side and built by hand one cleaved stone at a time. The original builders would have covered the inside and out with horse hair lime based plaster. Pieces of the original mortar can still be found if you look carefully. A home of this age would have had numerous fixes and renovations of the generations. Plaster from the mid 1800's can also be found. Plaster from this era tends to have clumps of lime mix within it. Probably from lime being left uncovered over night allowing the dew to wet the lime causing clumps. Older plaster and mortars would have been mixed for use immediately because there was zero room for waste.

    Photo Courtesy of Alpha Genesis

    Inside a 350 year old stone bank homestead.

    Photo Courtesy of Alpha Genesis

    The layers of life can be seen here. A large root cellar on the lower walk out level, with a walk in fireplace on the second/main story and a smaller corner fireplace on the top/3rd floor bedroom area. The stairs would be where the the photographer was standing here. Plus if you look closely, you can see a round hole in the fireplace wall on the third floor level. This hole was an exhaust inlet for a wood stove, which was a later addition to the original homestead. When the invention of the wood stove took off, heating had never been more convenient. This 1,600 sqft homestead had at least four wood stoves based on the various stove exhaust inlets into the masonry chimneys. It would have been toasty warm.

    Photo Courtesy of Alpha Genesis

    Simple rugged forest fencing. The fence is lining an old logging road from the past that runs directly in front of the old stone ruins and turning the bend heading down stream to Tinsmans Lumber, which is the oldest lumber yard in the country, still fully operational and open for business. AND STILL OWNED AND RUN BY THE TINSMAN FAMILY! Amazing. Living in an area with such history with access to quality craftsman and suppliers has been a dream.

    Photo Courtesy of Alpha Genesis
    Posted By
    Alpha Genesis
    @patrickpastella "We believe architecture is a form of conquest. We believe Curb Appeal means nothing without a little Sex Appeal. We believe that rules are boring. We believe that those who are bold enough to carve their name into history merit a home that demonstrates their tenacity. Working with our designers lets you make (and break) your own rules, creating the home you deserve." Patrick Pastella, President Alpha Genesis is a design-build firm based out of Solebury, PA. From inception to completion, we manage each project we take on every step of the way. Our hands-on approach allows us to help you create bold and purposeful designs that never sacrifice function for style. With boundless ideas and a wide network of building and regulatory partners, we work effectively with constant communication to ensure you end up with the home of your dreams.
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